NEW YORK – An international team of investigators has received a five-year, €22.5 million ($24.9 million) grant for a project to develop a test that may be able to diagnose multiple conditions, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, sepsis, and others with one blood sample and in less than two hours, the Imperial College of London announced on Monday.
The project is being funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Actions and is being spearheaded by Michael Levin, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College. The project's goal is to bring the test to hospitals across Europe.
Rather than performing multiple blood tests and scans to diagnose a condition, the project called Diagnosis and Management of Febrile Illness Using RNA Personalised Molecular Signature Diagnosis, or DIAMONDS, seeks to develop a platform that will allow a diagnosis to be done with just one blood sample. Other diseases being targeted for the test include inflammatory and immune diseases.
DIAMONDS includes research teams from Australia, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK. Building on earlier work, they will spend the next two years building a library of gene signatures of all common infectious and inflammatory diseases. By comparing gene patterns in patients' blood samples with the signature of all diseases in the library, a diagnosis can be made rapidly, Imperial College said in a statement.
Along with looking for diagnostic signatures, engineering and industry members of the collaborating teams will develop device prototypes to determine the gene expression in a blood sample by measuring the number of RNA molecules each makes.
A rapid test platform for measuring the number of genes necessary to diagnose the most common infectious and inflammatory diseases would follow. In the final stage, a trial of the new diagnostic approach would be conducted comparing it with current diagnostic methods.
The researchers aim to conduct the first pilot trials for the new approach, dubbed Personalised Molecular Signature Diagnosis, in hospitals in the UK and Europe in 2023 and 2024.
"We’re very confident that identifying the pattern of genes switched on in each patient will enable us to make an accurate diagnosis rapidly, as every disease has its own unique signature," Levin said in a statement. "The ambition is to develop a rapid test that will make the correct diagnosis based on the gene signature on the first blood sample taken when a patient arrives in hospital, and with the result within [one to two] hours. In the future the whole basis of medical diagnosis could be based on molecular signatures."